Pathological Gambling


Gambling is an activity in which a person wagers something of value (typically money) on an event that has an element of chance and offers the potential to win a prize. It can take many forms, including lotteries, cards, games of skill, sports betting, casino games, dice, races, animal tracks, and other events and activities. It is an extremely popular activity that is available in almost every country.

While occasional gambling may be enjoyable, for some people it becomes a serious problem that affects their physical and mental health, family, relationships, job performance, and career. In some cases, it can even lead to financial ruin and homelessness. The good news is that there are treatments for compulsive gambling, including psychotherapy and medication.

Symptoms of pathological gambling include: (4) an intense urge to gamble, often with increasing frequency; (5) difficulty avoiding or stopping gambling; and (6) continued gambling despite the presence of negative consequences. Some pathological gamblers have also been found to have a mood disorder, such as depression or anxiety. Depression, in particular, is one of the most common risk factors for pathological gambling and is reported to occur in up to 50% of those who receive treatment for it. Depression is also associated with increased rates of suicide.

Treatment for pathological gambling usually involves cognitive-behavioral therapy, a type of psychotherapy that teaches you to recognize and resist unhealthy thinking patterns and behaviors. You will learn to challenge irrational beliefs such as the notion that you can beat the odds in a game like poker or that a near miss–for example, two out of three cherries on a slot machine–will soon turn into a jackpot.

Another important aspect of treatment is finding ways to replace gambling with other healthy, productive, and rewarding activities. This can be accomplished by strengthening your support network, taking up a hobby, enrolling in an education class or job training program, or joining a peer-support group such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous.

If you or someone you know has a problem with gambling, seek help immediately. Getting treatment can save money, your family, and your future. You can also find helpful resources and support at GambCare, a free service that provides information and assistance to those affected by gambling. For more information, visit the GambCare website.